MARCH 10, 1903

Black leaders gathered at the First Baptist Church in Little Rock and demanded that Arkansas lawmakers reverse its law to have segregated streetcars. To drive their point home, they began to boycott streetcars in three Arkansas cities: Little Rock, Pine Bluff and Hot Springs. Their “We Walk” protests drew attention from newspapers and from streetcar companies, which saw the number of Black passengers plummet by as much as 90%. 

The manager of one streetcar line announced that “all the trouble we have had was from whites.” White passengers became angry after sitting in parts of the streetcar where Black passengers had been forced to ride. An Arkansas Democrat editorial bashed the law as impractical. 

Although the Jim Crow laws remained in place, Black leaders learned the power of such boycotts and used them elsewhere.

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.